It’s been a few years now since I lost my dad, and I’m still waiting for it to get easier, for the missing him to lessen.
He would most definitely not approve of some of the things I’m eating these days. Pork—and, it follows, pork belly—was never one of his favorites. The weird offal bits, he wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. He never understood my obsession with raw fish or oysters—when given a choice, he preferred his seafood fried. And yet, my sense of adventure toward and enjoyment of food comes in great part from him.
We had breakfast together most weekday mornings; his egg sandwich was unparalleled. He taught me to make pancakes and French toast, how to shuck corn, when to use a lighter hand with the spices—a lesson learned the hard way, with an angry refusal to eat my cumin-spiked chili.
When he got sicker, his appetite plummeted and his already sensitive sense of smell went into overdrive. Too much garlic would require open windows and cross-ventilation; forget about curries, herbs. Mild comfort food (they don’t call it that for nothing) was the only thing he could stomach; cooking something he loved was a comfort for me as well. Feeding him gave me a way to feel like I was helping, and there weren’t many of those.
Before my parents’ first trip to Italy, he was apprehensive about the entire endeavor, but since “your mother wants to go,” he’d resigned himself to the torture that is that idyllic Mediterranean destination. I knew he’d love it once he was there—I had more than one person mistake me for a native during my brief visit (it’s the nose), and we look alike, so I knew he’d feel right at home. I had no idea how much, though. He returned a full-on Italophile, eating Italian and drinking Italian and talking Italian; it was at his request for a meal that would honor his new-found love for the motherland that we found what is now a favorite Brooklyn restaurant, and I’ll be celebrating his birthday with a meal there tonight. Salute, Dad.